Habitat geography around Hawaii influences tiger shark spatial behaviour and shark bite risk at ocean recreation sites

Published online on 21. March 2018

Habitat geography around Hawaii’s oceanic islands influences tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) spatial behaviour and shark bite risk at ocean recreation sites

Carl G. Meyer, James M. Anderson, Daniel M. Coffey, Melanie R. Hutchinson, Mark A. Royer, Kim N. Holland


We compared tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) spatial behaviour among 4 Hawaiian Islands to evaluate whether local patterns of movement could explain higher numbers of shark bites seen around Maui than other islands. Our sample consisted of 96 electronically-tagged (satellite and acoustic transmitters) tiger sharks, individually tracked for up to 6 years. Most individuals showed fidelity to a specific ‘home’ island, but also swam between islands and sometimes ranged far (up to 1,400 km) offshore. Movements were primarily oriented to insular shelf habitat (0–200 m depth) in coastal waters, and individual sharks utilized core-structured home ranges within this habitat. Core utilization areas of large tiger sharks were closer to high-use ocean recreation sites around Maui, than around Oahu. Tiger sharks routinely visited shallow ocean recreation sites around Maui and were detected on more days overall at ocean recreation sites around Maui (62–80%) than Oahu (<6%). Overall, our results suggest the extensive insular shelf surrounding Maui supports a fairly resident population of tiger sharks and also attracts visiting tiger sharks from elsewhere in Hawaii. Collectively these natural, habitat-driven spatial patterns may in-part explain why Maui has historically had more shark bites than other Hawaiian Islands.

Scientific Reports, Volume 8, Article number: 4945, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-23006-0



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